SOURCE: Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Nature.

DATE: November 1, 2018

UPDATE: November 13, 2018
Scientists acknowledge key errors in study of how fast the oceans are warming

Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are.

Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists’ work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”

ORIGINAL

SNIP: For each of the past 25 years, oceans have absorbed an amount of heat energy that is 150 times the energy humans produce as electricity annually, according to a study led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and Princeton University.

The strong ocean warming the researchers found suggests that Earth is more sensitive to fossil-fuel emissions than previously thought. Study lead author Laure Resplandy, a Princeton assistant professor of geosciences, said that this estimate is more than 60 percent higher than the figure in the most recent assessment report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep,” said Resplandy, a former postdoctoral researcher at Scripps Oceanography. “Our data shows that it would have warmed by 6.5℃ (11.7℉) every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4℃ (7.2℉) every decade.”

Scientists know that the ocean takes up roughly 90 percent of all the excess energy produced as the Earth warms, so knowing the actual amount of energy makes it possible to estimate the surface warming that can be expected, said co-author Ralph Keeling, a Scripps Oceanography geophysicist and Resplandy’s former postdoctoral advisor.